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iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20: Which phone will be the best of the year?

iphone 12 pro vs galaxy note 20
(Image credit: LetsGoDigital/Concept Creator/Xleaks7/Pigtou)

The fall usually sees a showdown between Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy Note phablet, and this fall won't be any different. Both Apple and Samsung are expected to roll out their latest phones as usual — though maybe with a delay or two — with new features and capabilities aimed at claiming the title of best phone overall.

We're still a few months away from an iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 showdown, but you wouldn't know it from the rate of leaks about both new phones. Thanks to a steady stream of rumors, we've got a pretty good idea as to what Apple has planned for the Pro models of its new iPhone and how they'll compete with the updated phablet Samsung has in the works.

While specs and features might change between now and the fall, here's how the iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy Note 20 are shaping up and how these productivity-boosting phones compare to one another.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 rumored specs

iiPhone 12 ProiPhone 12 Pro MaxGalaxy Note 20Galaxy Note 20 Plus
Price$999$1,099$949$1,099
Screen size6.1 inches6.7 inches6.42 inches6.87 inches
CPUA14A14Snapdragon 865/Exynos 992Snapdragon 865/Exynos 992
RAM6GB6GB16GB16GB
Base model storage128GB128GB128GB128GB
Rear cameraTriple cameras + LiDARTriple cameras + LiDARTriple camera + TOF sensorTriple camera + TOF sensor
Battery sizeUnknownUnknown4,000 mAh4,500 mAh - 5,000 mAh

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 price and availability

There won't be much separating the iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy Note 20 on price, as both feature-packed premium phones promise to test the limits of what people are willing to pay for a flagship device. While the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Max are expected to start at $649 and $749, respectively, according to recent iPhone price leaks, the iPhone 12 models will cost a bit more. The iPhone 12 Pro is likely to cost $999, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max will go for $1,099 — the same prices as their iPhone 11 counterparts.

The rumor mill has been less definitive about what to expect from the Galaxy Note 20's price. But if Samsung sticks to the pricing it used with the Galaxy Note 10 series, the standard Note 20 would start at $949 and the Plus model would cost $1,099. Unlike Apple, which is planning to roll out four different iPhone 12 models this year, Samsung is reportedly sticking with just two Note 20 versions.

The Note 20 is likely to debut first, with Samsung expected to hold an online launch event sometime in late summer. (It will be August if Samsung follows last year's script, though we've heard some rumblings of a July launch.) The iPhone typically bows in early September, and while Apple would dearly love to repeat that pattern with the iPhone 12, multiple reports have suggested that the coronavirus outbreak caused some delays to Apple's production schedule. We're now hearing that Apple is pushing back the iPhone 12 launch to October, the first time it won't show off phones in September since 2011. That could give the Galaxy Note 20 a nice head start, should Samsung be able to ship its phone before the fall.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 design and display

Don't expect different looks for either the iPhone 12 Pro or the Galaxy Note 20 when they arrive later this year. The iPhone 12 Pro should retain the overall look of previous Apple phones, though rumors point to more flatter edges reminiscent of the iPhone 5. The iconic notch is sticking around, though some rumors point to it getting smaller.

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20

iPhone 12 Pro render (Image credit: PhoneArena)

As for the Note 20, it will look a lot like the Galaxy S20 that came out earlier this year, only with a slot for the phablet's S Pen. The camera cutout on the back of Samsung's phone could also be boxier than what we saw on the Note 10, based on leaked CAD renders of the new phone.

Instead of major design changes, the biggest thing about either phone could be their displays. And we're not just talking about screen sizes either.

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20

Galaxy Note 20 render (Image credit: Windows United)

Premium smartphones have been moving toward faster refresh rates for their displays. Such a feature makes for smoother scrolling and more immersive games (at least on games that support faster refresh rates.) The Galaxy Note 20 is expected to take a page out of the Galaxy S20's book by opting for a 120Hz refresh rate — double the typical smartphone's rate of 60Hz. Unlike the S20, which has to downgrade resolution in 120Hz mode to preserve battery life, the Note 20 is rumored to be using LTPO technology to dynamically adjust refresh rates, automatically turning it on when you're running an app that supports the feature.

The iPhone Pro models could adopt a faster refresh rate, too, though experts doubt whether Apple will be able to use LTPO technology on this year's phone. If that's exclusive to the Note 20, it could give Samsung a big edge.

As for screen sizes themselves, the iPhone 12 Pro models are expected to feature larger displays than the 5.8- and 6.5-inch OLED panels on the current iPhones. The iPhone 12 Pro should have a 6.1-inch display while the iPhone 12 Pro Max could come in at 6.7 inches. There's no consensus on how big the Note 20 screens might get. Initial rumors pegged the sizes of the Note 20 and Note 20 Plus at 6.42 and 6.87 inches, respectively, but a recent CAD render showed off a 6.7-inch Galaxy Note 20. That means an even bigger Note 20 Plus, if accurate.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 cameras

Displays may be a new battleground in the iPhone-Galaxy Note showdown, but cameras remain an important way for phones to stand out from another. And this year, the iPhone 12 Pro is likely to bring another lens to the fight.

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20

iPhone 12 Pro render (Image credit: PhoneArena)

Last year, Apple went with three cameras on its Pro iPhones — a main shooter augmented by telephoto and ultra wide angle lenses. Those optics are likely to return in the iPhone 12 Pro, with Apple adding a LiDAR sensor similar to the one it introduced on the iPad Pro earlier this year. The sensor is designed to accurately judge the distance between your phone and whatever it is you're shooting, which should mean better portrait shots from the iPhone 12 Pro. But the LiDAR sensor could also work with augmented reality apps to overlay images on the iPhone 12 screen.

The Galaxy Note 20's camera setup should look very similar to the iPhone 12 — three lenses plus a time-of-flight sensor for improved portrait shots. In fact, most analysts and leakers expect the Note 20 to draw heavily upon the cameras Samsung introduced with its Galaxy S20 lineup earlier this year.

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20

Galaxy Note 20 design leak (Image credit: Schnail Case)

That could mean the Note 20 uses the 108-megapixel main camera that's a highlight of the Galaxy S20 Ultra. While that phone suffered autofocus issues which were eventually addressed in a post-release patch, Samsung may be using a different sensor to avoid that problem. The same leakers floating that rumor also say that the Note 20 won't feature the same Space Zoom camera found on the S20 Ultra, meaning no 100x power for Note 20 users. Instead, look for something like the Galaxy S20 Plus' 64MP telephoto lens that delivers a 3x lossless zoom.

The camera improvements Samsung made to its S20 lineup enabled those phones to push the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max for the title of best camera phone — a battle last year's iPhones still won. It will be interesting to see if better sensors make a difference for the Note 20 and how Apple ups its photo game with the iPhone 12.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 performance

This part of the contest could be over before it starts. The A13 Bionic processor that powers the current iPhone lineup already outperforms the best Android phones which feature Qualcomm's top-of-the-line Snapdragon 865 chipset. That's what’s inside the Galaxy S20 models and if Samsung sticks to past practice, it will use the Snapdragon 865 in the Note 20 lineup, too. 

So the new Galaxy models would already start off with a performance deficit — and that's before Apple introduces the A14 processor that's likely to power the iPhone 12 Pro. In addition to the regular performance boosts you'd see from a new chip, the A14 is reportedly a 5-nanometer chip, which would make it even more efficient.

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20

Snapdragon 865 (Image credit: Qualcomm)

Samsung might try and counter with its own Exynos 992 system-on-chip, which is rumored to be a possibility if Qualcomm doesn't come out with a Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset that improves upon the 865. But Snapdragon chips have outperformed Exynos processors in the past, so we're not sure that would help the Note 20 in a face-off with the iPhone 12 Pro.

Apple is reportedly planning on offering 128GB in the base model of its new phones. That would double the capacity of the iPhone 11 Pro's base model, though it still lags behind the 256GB of storage on the Galaxy Note 10. Worryingly, there's a rumor Samsung could scale that back to 128GB for the Note 20, which would mean sacrificing one of the areas its phones have stood out against the iPhone.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 battery life and charging

The Galaxy Note 10 didn't exactly wow us with its battery life, with the smaller of the two models lasting 9 hours and 25 minutes on our battery test where we have phones surf the web continuously over cellular until they run out of juice. That's a below average result for a smartphone. The Note 10 Plus fared better, at 10 hours and 47 minutes, though that was still short of the best phone battery life we've seen from the devices we test.

If rumors are true, Samsung is looking to improve things by boosting the size of the batteries in the Galaxy Note 20. The standard Note 20 is reportedly getting a 4,000 mAh battery, a step up from the 3,500 mAh power pack in the Note 10. The Note 20 Plus is expected to pack a 4,500 mAh battery.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20

Galaxy Note 20 render (Image credit: SamMobile and Giuseppe)

Apple never makes much of a fuss about the battery size in its phones, and for the iPhone 11 Pro Max, it really didn't have to. That phone lasted a little less than 12 hours on our test. The iPhone 11 Pro lasted 10.5 hours, in part because of its smaller capacity battery. We'd hope for similar results from the iPhone 12 Pro models, though perhaps the larger iPhone 12 Pro will be able to accommodate a bigger battery than the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro.

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20

iPhone 12 Pro render (Image credit: EverythingApplePro)

We're eager to see whether the Galaxy Note 20 or iPhone 12 Pro can deliver on a new charging technology that would significantly speed up how long it takes to get a fully charged phone. Both Samsung and Apple are allegedly looking into chargers that use new gallium nitride technology. That would shrink the size of power adapters without decreasing wattage for more efficient charging.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 software and special features

When the iPhone 12 Pro debuts, Apple's new phones will appear with iOS 14 pre-installed. That's the newest version of Apple's mobile operating system, and while we won't get the definitive word on iOS 14 features until June, early leaks point to enhancements like a new multitasking interface, list views for apps and a built-in AR app to take advantage of the Pro models' LiDAR sensor.

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20

iOS 14 concept design (Image credit: iSpazio)

The Galaxy Note 20 will ship with Android 10, the same software found on this spring's Galaxy S20 Plus. About the same time, the Note 20 arrives, Google will launch Android 11, an update to that mobile OS. If history is any guide, Samsung won't be adding Android 11 to the Note 20 until around the end of the year.

Both the iPhone 12 Pro and the Galaxy Note 20 will feature 5G connectivity — a first for Apple's iPhone lineup. (The Note 10 Plus 5G added 5G support to Samsung's phablet lineup last year.) The iPhone 12 Pro should connect to all flavors of 5G, just like the Note 20.

There's a possibility Touch ID returns to this year's iPhone 12 Pro models, with analysts forecasting that Apple is going to use displays with integrated touch sensors. If so, that would match the in-display fingerprint sensor included with the Galaxy Note 10 and presumably making its way to the Note 20 this year.

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20

The S Pen (with the Galaxy Note 10 Plus) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Note 20 figures retain a big edge over the iPhone in one key area — it's still got the S Pen, the powerful stylus that Samsung includes with its tablet. In recent years, Samsung has expanded the feature set for the S Pen, adding Bluetooth connectivity and expanded transcription capabilities. We've yet to hear if the Note 20's S Pen is going to get similar attention, but it's likely to remain the centerpiece of Samsung's phablet experience.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 outlook

A lot can happen between now and when Apple and Samsung show off their new phones. But right now, the iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy Note 20 battle will likely be decided by which phone can deliver the more compelling display and which one can take the best pictures. Apple and Samsung are each hoping that their phone will win on both counts.